Welcome to the Hotline’s preview of the 2019 football season, a month-long rollout of content in three waves.
If you missed the South preview, here’s the plan:
This week and next, we’ll examine issues specific to training camp, the conference’s top newcomers and staff changes most likely to impact performance.
In the middle of the month, we’ll transition to team previews that include the Hotline’s annual game-by-game predictions and an expanded offering of commentary and analysis.
The final push will feature bowl projections, all-conference picks, quarterback ratings and more (much more).
(Note: The head coaches’ comments below are from Pac-12 football media day last week in Hollywood.)
Camp starts: Aug. 2 Season opener: Aug. 31 vs UC Davis We’re watching: Every aspect of the offense … The Bears are in need of a starting tailback, and Christopher Brown (just 151 yards last season) is the top contender … They are in search of consistency at quarterback, from incumbent Chase Garbers or transfer Devon Modster (formerly of UCLA) … They need better play up front … And they need someone — anyone — to emerge as a big-play threat in the passing game. With the exception of Rutgers, no Power Five team had a lower yards-per-attempt average last season than the Bears (5.7) … The defense, on the other hand, starts strong and only gets better as you move away from scrimmage, with one of the nation’s top back lines.Justin Wilcox on … big plays: “To think you’re going to drive the ball at three, four, five yards a play the whole field the whole game is very, very difficult. The primary indicators in scoring points (are) creating explosive plays, and we were not good in that area last year. It’s coaching, it’s development of our players, it’s recruiting, and going out and performing.”
Camp starts: Aug. 2 Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Auburn We’re watching: The hands. We are watching the hands … The Ducks had 52 dropped passes last year (four per game) and must greatly reduce that number without their top receiver from ’18, Dillon Mitchell. All eyes are on Penn State transfer Juwan Johnson, but a second option is essential (perhaps junior Jaylon Redd) … The defense needs a presence on the edge to replace Justin Hollins. Is true freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux the answer? We’re skeptical that he’s up to the task, week after week … The kicking game was awful last season (6-of-11 field goals) and must be resolved prior to the opener.Mario Cristobal on … winning on the road: “Two years ago, the struggles on the road were monumental. There were double-digit defeats and absolutely no chance at winning to, last year, winning three of them but still having difficulties in other ones. And now understanding that as this thing gets harder and you go deeper into it, especially when it goes into conference play on the road, the level of attention to detail and the shutting out of the outside world has to be at a level where … nothing that can derail you from your mindset and your approach to the game.”
*** Oregon State
Camp starts: Aug. 1 Season opener: Aug. 30 vs. Oklahoma State We’re watching: Jake Luton’s back, and his shoulders, and his knees — every part of the injury-prone, 6-foot-7 senior … The Beavers are relying heavily on transfer Addison Gumbs (from Oklahoma) to solidify a defensive line that was non-existent against the run. Another key newcomer, Avery Roberts (Nebraska), should start at inside linebacker … Safety David Morris was one of the most promising young defensive backs in the conference in 2017 but missed last season with a broken foot. How quickly will he regain old form? … Oh, and we’re intrigued by the tailback rotation that emerges in camp. The Beavers are loaded in the backfield.Jonathan Smith on … defending the run: “We needed to get better. It starts up front, and so we needed to grow and add to our defensive front, and that’s taken place. We’ve got to be better tacklers in space … We did look at adding to and tweaking some schemes defensively, so with all of that, confident we’re going to be better against it.”
Camp starts: Aug. 2 Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Northwestern We’re watching: The running game … The candidates to replace Bryce Love have been, to this point, a bit underwhelming. Will Cameron Scarlett, Dorian Maddox or Trevor Speights transform from role player into star? … Only if the offensive line improves by an order of magnitude. The Cardinal is set at left tackle with Walker Little but has questions everywhere else … The positions responsible for run support, inside linebackers, require scrutiny this month. Stanford is replacing Bobby Okereke, its top playmaker from the front seven. The player to watch in this regard is junior Curtis Robinson, who missed all but two games last season.David Shaw on … recruiting: “The recruiting machine in college football right now is very misleading. That’s the reason why we have so many guys that transfer. They don’t know who they are, and they’re picking colleges for the wrong reasons, and they get to the college and they get to their first bump in the road, they’re third string as a freshman and say, ‘I shouldn’t be third string, I’m going someplace else,’ instead of saying, ‘Hey, I chose this college. This is where I want to go to school and play football.’”
Camp starts: Aug. 2 Season opener: Aug. 31 vs Eastern Washington We’re watching: The Huskies had one of the top-15 defenses in the country last year but, curiously, ranked near the bottom of the FBS in sacks and tackles-for-loss. Our focus is on sophomore outside linebacker Joe Tryon … The next elite interior defensive lineman in Seattle might be freshman Tuli Letuligasenoa, but is he ready for the role? … Who replaces linebackers Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett in the middle of the defense? Brandon Wellington and Kyler Manu are the top candidates … The secondary will have four new faces, with only nickel Myles Bryant back from the 2018 starting quintet … Oh, and we might find time to monitor that Jacob Eason guy.Chris Petersen on … the Pac-12 officiating review: “What the report does to me, and I think for probably most of the coaches, is it makes you feel like they’re doing everything in their power to get better at this whole process, and they get it straightened out and do the best we possibly can. And I think that’s what it’s all about, is it’s about owning up to, hey, what do we need to do to take the next step to make everybody feel better, including ourselves. So I think it’s a real positive, and I think we’re heading in the right direction.
*** Washington State
Camp starts: Aug. 2 Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. New Mexico State We’re watching: The most intriguing quarterback competition in the North resides in Pullman, where another transfer, Gage Gubrud from Eastern Washington, is competing for the starting job. But will he beat out Anthony Gordon, who was impressive in the spring game? … Our interest in the secondary increased substantially with the unexpected departure of safety Jalen Thompson (to the NFL supplemental draft). Without him, the Cougars are in serious shuffling mode … The left side of the offensive line has been retooled in the wake of Andre Dillard’s departure. Liam Ryan shifts from guard to tackle. We expect Robert Valencia to slide into the lineup at left guard.Mike Leach on … expectations: “I realize everybody thinks we’re going to get our head kicked in as usual. I don’t expect that to be the case any more than it was last year at this time when speculation was similar. Yeah, that’s the great thing about us, is every season everybody thinks we’re going to get our head kicked in, then we don’t. So everybody gets to be stunned and surprised, so it’s fun for everybody.”
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